An unassuming former cinema opposite a giant steelworks on the banks of the Saar river is at the center of a stand-off over plans for a minaret to mark its new role as a mosque.

The row highlights concerns about the spread of Islam in Germany’s traditionally conservative rust belt.

In a confrontation reminiscent of the debate in Switzerland, which led to a national referendum verdict banning new minarets, the 40,000-strong town of Völklingen has become divided over plans by the Selimiye mosque for three domes and an 26-foot spire.

It would be the first minaret in Saarland, which has fallen on hard times since the heyday of steel production in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving many of the Turks who arrived to work in the smelters unemployed.

Although Germany has about 170 mosques, a further 200 are said to be under construction and tensions are beginning to show in communities such as Völklingen, where about 5 per cent of the population are Muslim.

“We are being quietly infiltrated by the Turks,” said one resident at a meeting called last month, according to Die Tageszeitung. The audience of 250 was asked to fill in forms, with one stating: “Minarets have nothing to do with Gemany.”

The council rejected the first proposal for twin minarets as out of keeping with the area and Klaus Lörig, the Mayor, appealed to the mosque to withdraw the plan. The mosque committee said that there were no legal grounds to reject its plan and warned that it was prepared to go to court.

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